California mountain range missing several (million) candles on its birthday cake
Scientists discover that the Sierra Nevada mountains in California reached their current height 50 million years ago, 30 million years earlier than previously thought.
Robert Harbison/The Christian Science Monitor/file
The Sierra Nevada mountain range reached its present height 50 million years ago — 30 million years earlier than geologists once believed, according to a new study.
The research adds to a growing body of evidence that the Sierra Nevadas are far older than once thought and has implications for the evolution of the plants and animals in the West, as well as for the likely climate of ancient North America.
The study, by scientists at Yale University and the Berkeley Museum of Paleontology, used 50-million-year-old chemical traces left by microbes and rain droplets that fell onto ancient leaves to calculate the new height estimate for the Sierras at that time.